If you’re studying another language, you need a dictionary. However, it’s really important how to use – and how not to use – a dictionary. A dictionary is only helpful if you use it the right way. If you use a dictionary the wrong way, it makes it more difficult to learn English.
1. Use a monolingual dictionary as much as possible.
There are two kinds of dictionaries:
Bilingual dictionaries = your language + another language
Examples: English - Korean, English - Chinese, English - Japanese, etc.
Bilingual dictionaries are written in two languages.
Monolingual dictionaries = one language (no translation)
Examples: English - English, Korean - Korean, Chinese - Chinese, etc.
Both are useful, but you should use a monolingual dictionary as much as possible, and a bilingual dictionary as little as possible.
You need to use a dictionary in English with definitions and examples in English. You will be able to understand English, instead of translating everything into your native language. This will make your English more fluent and natural.
2. Find the right dictionary for you.
Different dictionaries are made for different people. If you are using a dictionary that was written 50 years ago and made for scientists, it might not help you too much. There are many good learners’ dictionaries online, which are designed specially for people learning English. So don’t just buy the first dictionary you see: read reviews, ask others for advice, and choose one that suits your English level and your study needs.
We recommend the following dictionaries which you can actually find and use online:
You will be able to listen to the pronunciation of words and to read different meanings of each word, plus examples (how this word is actually used).
3. Don’t use a dictionary all the time.
Remember, you can’t learn a language just by using a dictionary. If you could, everybody would speak many languages. It’s just not that simple. If you don’t understand something when you’re reading or listening, don’t reach for your dictionary every time.
Not understanding things you read or hear is a normal part of learning another language.
Maybe you can understand the general meaning without understanding this one word, or maybe you can guess the meaning from the context. You don’t want to depend on your dictionary too much.
4. Remember that not everything can be translated.
This is one more reason to use a bilingual dictionary as little as possible – some words just don’t translate well between languages. For example, English has one verb “put”, whereas German has three verbs with the same meaning. So you can’t translate the words directly.
Put it on the table!
English: “put” = 1 verb, many meanings
German: “stellen”, “stecken”, “legen” = 3 verbs, the same meaning
English Study Habits:
How to learn new vocabulary
How to remember vocabulary
Learn the difference between some English words:
Confusing verbs: Say vs. Tell
Confusing verbs: Speak vs. Talk
Confusing words: Come vs. Go
Confusing words: Bring vs. Take
Confusing words: Know someone vs. Meet someone, Alone vs. Lonely, To feel cold vs. To have a cold, Desert vs. Dessert
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